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The Cenozoic Era (65Ma -present) --'age of mammals'

- final stages of Pangaea break-up: Australia separated from Antarctica and Greenland from North America. The Atlantic Ocean continued to grow
- the collision of India and Africa with Asia and Europe formed the Alpine-Himalayan chain.
- first hominid is ~6-7Ma
- Neanderthals is ~350,000 years ago
- modern human is around ~200,000 years ago


The Cenozoic Era (65Ma -present) --> 65 million years of climate change

- for much of our recent era, the earth has been cooling
- Antarctica ice sheets started forming 1.5 Ma ago
- North American ice sheets started 5 Ma ago


Glacial-interglacial cycles

- ice core records (800,000 yrs):
9 interglacials
9 glaciations
- largest changes = 100,000 year cycles
- smaller cycles follow 20 and 40 k cycles
- dust, temperature, CO2, methane (CH4) and N2O show similar trends


The last glacial maximum (LGM)

- Wisconsin glaciation
- lower concentrations in greenhouse gases
- large continental ice sheets
- ended 18,000 yrs ago
- lower sea levels (120 m)


The end of the earth

- will probably occur 5 Ga in the future, when the Sun runs out of nuclear fuel, and transforms briefly into a red giant, whose diameter will approach that of the earth's orbit; as the expanding sun's surface will approach the earth, the planet will vaporize.

- this will be the ultimate global change


The Tohoku earthquake (2011): shaking Japan's trust in nuclear power

- earthquake triggered a tsunami
- waves swept over sea wall and floated Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant
- caused a nuclear meltdown
- thousands died and billions of dollars in damage
- caused public to become more wary of nuclear power


Some basics

- everything around you (and in the universe) that has mass
- made up of atoms and molecules

Different atoms are called elements:
Elements: different number of protons and electrons

Molecules are made up of two or more atoms

The earth is one large mixture of molecules in gases, liquids and solids


Some basics

-Isotopes = atoms with differing numbers of neutrons
- Mass number =the combined number of protons and neutrons
- isotopes of an element behave differently
- some isotopes are radioactive and decay until they become non-radioactive stable isotopes.


Some basics

Radioactive decay:
- some isotopes are unstable
- they undergo radioactive decay and are converted to a different element
- half-life: the amount of time necessary to reduce the number of atoms by 50% from the original number.
- different radioscopes have different half-lives


Geologic time

Time: sequence of events

The age of events can be specified as relative age or as numerical (absolute) age

Absolute ages -impossible for early geologists (until the 20th century)

Early geologists were able to determine only the relative ages of the various parts of the earth . For this they were using several principle: uniformitarianism, original horizontality, superposition, original continuity, cross-cutting relations. (Establishing the relative age-an example)


Geologic time scale

The construction of the geologic time scale was initially based on relative age determinations of sedimentary rock units (by using the principles of stratigraphy) and on correlations of widely separated units using 'Fossils'.

Until the 20th century, only the relative ages were unknown


Geologic time: age for the earth

In 1658 archbishop ussher of Ireland gives an age of about 5600 years, based on the study of Old Testament
In the late 18th century, James Hutton introduces the principle of Uniformitarianism:
(1) Earth's history is a constant cycle of deposition, burial, uplift, erosion & re-deposition
(2) same processes we observe today operated in the past .


Geologic time: age for the earth (continued)

In the 19th century:
Charles Darwin estimated the age of the Earth, based on how long it would have taken to erode a large valley in the south of England: ~300,000,000 years

William Thomson (Lord Kelvin) estimated based on the cooling of the Earth from an initial high temperature to the present state: ~100,000,000 years --> however, he did not include the heat from radioactive decay


Geologic time: age for the earth (continued)

In 1896 Henri Becquerel discovers Radioactivity.

Radioactive dating of the Earth:
'Daughter ' products form from 'parents' at characteristic rates of decay (half-lives)
Lead-lead geochronology: ...
1956: Claire Patterson 4.55 billion years old


Geological time scale

Make sure to know the table of pg15, the time scale correlates with each event.


Basic Geology

Lithosphere: upper 100km (include crust and upper mantle)

Athenosphere: warmer ductile layer of the mantle that 'flows' part of upper mantle.

Mantle: surrounds the core, thick layer of rock

Core: the planet's center, consisting mostly of iron, solid in the inner core and molten in the outer core.


Plate Tectonics

- movement of lithospheric plates
-fifteen major tectonic plates
- where two plates meet:
(1) intense geological activity
(2) Earthquakes, volcanoes
(3) Mid Ocean ridges


Two types of crust

Continental crust:
(1) less dense
(2) thicker
(3) older

Oceanic crust:
(1) denser
(2) thinner
(3) younger

The driving force is the heat energy from the mantle & core derived from radioactive decay


Plate Boundaries: 3 types

A. Divergent
B. Convergent
C. Transform


Divergent (spreading) plate boundaries

- their surface expression is a mild-ocean ridge
- associated with high heat flow, which reflects rising of magma
- newly formed oceanic crust moves away from the ridge axis, then more magma rises, and more crust forms, and so on...
- since new crust is made are mid-ocean ridges, the age of the ocean floor increases progressively from the ridge axis.


Convergent plate boundaries

- the region where the oceanic crust returns to the mantle are called subduction zones. They mark convergent plate boundaries.
- the surface expression of a subduction zone is a trench and a volcanic arc.
-subduction zones have intense seismic activity.
-collisions lead to the formation of major mountain ranges (e.g Alps, Appalachians, Andes, Cascades...)

Convergence of two oceanic plate leads to a volcanic island arc
Convergence between an oceanic and a continental plate leads to a continental volcanic arc. --> ring of fire.
Deepest ocean trench is the Mariana Trench at 11,022 meters (36,161 feet)

Continental lithosphere cannot subduction because it is too buoyant.

When two blocks of continental lithosphere converge, a collision occurs- neither block can be subducted because of their buoyancy.


Transform Faults

- Often Link segments of the ridge system, some transform boundaries link trenches, other link a trench to a ridge segment.

- No new plate forms and no old plate is consumed at a transform boundary.

-famous example of a transform plate boundary: The San Andreas fault.


Hot Spots - intraplate volcanoes

Global hotspot locations...



- Movement of tectonic plates on hot soft rock (anthenosphere)
- Heat melts rock --> magma rises
- Lava: magma at surface
- Happens at:
(1) subduction zones
(2) spreading centers
(3) Hot spots



- rocks in lithosphere shift or break
- energy released as seismic waves: Vibrations that spread through rocks
- usually occur along adults
- more than 1 million quakes per year
- Measured using the Richter scale
- Earthquake activity mirrors tectonic plate boundaries: most large earthquakes occur at subduction zones.


Side effects of Earthquakes

- Landslides
- Tsunamis:
(1) Giant sea waves
(2) Indian Ocean 2004
(3) Waves over 30m
(4) More than 225,000 died


Rock cycle

- aggregates of one or more minerals
- based on rock formation:
(1) igneous rock
(2) metamorphic rock
(3) Sedimentary rock


The rock cycle modifies Earth's physical environment

- rock: naturally occurring, solid aggregation of minerals --> types of rock influences region's plant community
- Mineral: naturally occurring solid element or inorganic compound that has a crystal structure, a specific chemical composition, and distinct physical properties-->building block of rocks.


Minerals: Earth's building blocks

Minerals are:
-solid, inorganic substances
- homogenous
- naturally occurring
- characterized by a definable chemical composition (the chemical formula can be written)

Usually, the minerals are crystalline: they have an orderly and repetitive arrangement of atoms or groups of atoms) in an array called crystal lattice. E.g cubic crystal of halite (NaCl)



A rock is a coherent, naturally occurring solid, consisting of an aggregate of minerals.



Metallic minerals contain metals:
- malleable, lustrous, conductors
- iron, aluminum, copper, lead

Nonmetallic minerals contain nonmetal elements:
- sand (SiO2), salt(NaCl), phosphates


Minerals: main classes

Silicates (quartz- SiO2, feldspar, pyroxene, mica)
Oxides (magnetite - Fe3O4, corundum - Al2O3)
Sulfides (pyrite -FeS2)
Sulfates (gypsum- CaSO4.H2O)
Halides (Halite-NaCl)
Carbonates (calcite -CaCO3)
Native elements (copper-Cu, Gold-Au, graphite -C)



Ore: rock with high enough concentration of a valuable mineral
Considered non-renewable resource: they are not replenished by natural processes on a human time scale


Back to the rock cycle

- igneous rock:
formed by solidification of molten rock material
- sedimentary rock:
Form either by cementing together fragments (grains) broken off pre-existing rocks or by precipitation of minerals out of water solutions at or near Earth's surface

- metamorphic rock:
Form through the change of pre-existing rocks in the solid state (without melting) in response to an increase in temperature and (or) pressure.


Igneous rock

- formed from the solidification of molten rock material (at 650 -1100) that was intruded into the crust or extruded at the surface of the Earth.

- represent the most abundant type of rocks on Earth (make up much of the both the oceanic and continental crust)

Granite: major igneous rock type found in continents.
Basalt: a major igneous rock type forming the seafloor.


Sedimentary rocks

Two main types:
1. Clastic-originate from weathering and erosion of pre-existing rocks and transportation of the debris by water, wind, and ice to areas of deposition (sea and lake bottoms). The layers of sediments become sedimentary rocks through burial and lithification.

2. Chemical and biochemical -formed through chemical and biological precipitation from natural waters.


Clastic sedimentary rocks

Mud, clay--> shale
Silt--> silstone
Sand--> sandstone
Mixed rounded clasts --> conglomerate
Mixed broken clasts --> breccia


Chemical sedimentary rocks

- Limestone (made of calcite, CaCO3)-forms either biochemically from the shells of organisms, or chemically by precipitation from water; limestones sequester huge amounts of carbon
- evaporates: e.g minerals like halite (NaCl), gypsum (CaSO4H2O)
E.g Limestone quarry, Fossiliferous Limestone


Sedimentary Rocks

From the Paleozoic Era on, a relatively continuous fossil record of the evolutionary history of the plants and animals is found in sedimentary rocks

Importance of sedimentary rocks: contain information on the depositional environment and on the evolution of life (fossil record) --> formation on episodes of global environmental change.

Example: the oxygen isotopic record in the shells of foraminifera in deep-sea sediments reflects the temperature history of ocean surface water.


Metaphoric rocks

Formed through the alteration of existing rocks (can be igneous, sedimentary, or already metamorphic), when these are subjected to heat (contact with magma, or deep burial), and/or pressure (deep burial)

The structure and composition (mineralogy) of a metamorphic rock can be significantly different from those of the original parent rock.